Abele and Barrett promise teamwork

Newly elected Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele says he will work closely with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

“I couldn’t be more excited to work with Tom,” Abele said in his election night victory remarks. “We share a love for the city and the county. I don’t see the mayor as a political competitor. I see him as a partner and a friend.”

Barrett endorsed Abele and said the new Milwaukee County executive will be his “partner.”

“As the mayor of the city of Milwaukee I am delighted to have a partner who wants to address the issues it faces, not only the city of Milwaukee but the suburban areas, and is willing to work with local officials to try to address these problems,” Barrett said on election night. “I am very, very happy to have as my partner Chris Abele, the next county executive for Milwaukee County.”

The enthusiasm that Barrett and Abele have for working together will be a change from when Scott Walker was Milwaukee County executive. Walker, a conservative Republican, and Barrett, a liberal Democrat, had different philosophies, particularly regarding transportation policy. Last year, Walker and Barrett ran against each other for governor, with Walker winning.

Historically, the mayor of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County executives have usually both been Democrats with similar views, said Milwaukee historian John Gurda. However, Mayor Henry Maier and Mayor John Norquist were critics of the suburbs and freeway expansion, although Maier supported freeway construction at first, Gurda said. Milwaukee County executives represent the city and the county’s suburbs. John Doyne, the first Milwaukee County executive, supported freeway expansion even after Maier became opposed to more freeways, Gurda said.

Abele pledged to improve cooperation between all units of government in Milwaukee County.

“In addition to 19 municipalities, Milwaukee County also contains UWM, MPS, MMSD and the Wisconsin Center District, all of which are serving the same citizens and yet too often we interact as if we are different countries,” Abele said. “It’s time for a new approach and it’s time to stop working apart and start working together.”

During the campaign Abele said he will move the Milwaukee County economic development department into the city of Milwaukee office building occupied by the Department of City Development (DCD). By doing that, the Milwaukee County economic development staff will be able to work side-by-side with DCD on economic development projects, Abele said.

The redevelopment of the Park East corridor, which remains mostly vacant, is a top economic development priority, Abele said. None of the land in the corridor that is owned by Milwaukee County has been developed.

“We already have an agreement to work together to develop the Park East,” Abele said.

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